From the ‘new Luka Modric’ to the Spanish second tier in the blink of an eye, Ante Coric’s Shakespearean fall from grace perfectly epitomises the fickle nature of modern football.
A YouTube sensation at the age of 12, the youngest goal-scorer in Dinamo Zagreb’s history at 17, a Croatian international at 19 and a marquee signing for Italian giants Roma at 21.
The Giallorossi needed a new messiah in the post-Totti era and Coric answered their prayers. He was supposed to be the new miracle worker in the home of the Vatican, a statement signing who had fans dreaming of a return to the top of the Italian game.
Instead, at just 22, Coric is in purgatory, bound for Spain in an attempt to rebuild a once-dazzling reputation in front of just 15,000 fans in Andalusia.
The apparent Chosen One of Croatian football, a player so relentlessly branded the spiritual successor to Zvonimir Boban, Robert Prosinecki or Real Madrid’s Ballon d’Or winning number ten is now stuck in the Spanish second tier after playing just 22 minutes of football in a nightmare debut season in Serie A.
He has joined UD Almeria on loan with an option to buy for just £5 million, as reported by Football Italia.
And it is impossible not to wonder how things could have panned out if Coric hadn’t rejected the advances of Liverpool when the world was at his feet.
What could have been
"It was up to me to decide, all I needed to do was a medical,” Coric told FourFourTwo in 2016, admitting that he walked away from a chance to join Jurgen Klopp at Anfield. “I want to stay at Dinamo.”
According to Sportske Novosti, a manager who transformed Robert Lewandowski, Mario Goetze, Mats Hummels, Mo Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold into bona fide world-beaters saw something very special in the-then £13 million-rated Coric. He even called the fresh-faced play-maker personally in an attempt to lure him to Anfield two years before Roma made their move.
When you consider Klopp has turned Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane into the world’s most feared strike force, made Joel Matip one of Europe’s finest centre-halves and had such a remarkable impact on the careers of Jordan Henderson, Joe Gomez and Andy Robertson, Coric could be forgiven for wondering what might have been.
“On the one hand I'm happy. I am only 20, I'm Dinamo's youngest scorer in Europe, I have four trophies, I was at the European Championship in France, I scored a few goals against Hajduk Split in the derby ... If you told me three years ago that would be so, I would not believe I would be so successful,” a wistful Coric told Sportske Jutarnji in 2017.
"But on the other hand, I thought I would play Manchester City or Liverpool today. But I am fine with Dinamo. I mean well ... Of course, I always want to play more, be better than I am.”
A penny for Coric’s thoughts two years on.
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